Foley's Defence, S Glover

Tags: Stuart Glover, Arts Minister Matt Foley, Federal Government, Minister for State Development, Government investment, arts departments, cultural industries, culture, Courier-Mail, Cultural Heritage Trail Network, government, economic development, government in Australia, Cultural Minister, Department of State Development, cultural development, Arts Minister, Helen Nugent, Arts Queensland, Joan Sheldon, kilometres, graffiti artists, PhD student, Queensland Philharmonic, Australia Council, Queensland, public buildings, Symphony Orchestras, performing arts, Queensland Cultural Centre, Matt Foley
Content: Foley's Defence Stuart Glover This is the author's version, the published version: Stuart Glover, "Foleys Defence" (article on Arts Minister Matt Foley) in Courier-Mail, October 2000. The recent questioning of Matt Foley's performance as Arts Minister (The Courier Mail, 7 October 2000) is an irony for a Minister who has pressed more flesh, spoken more eloquently, and kicked more Federal Government heads in the service of the arts than any other. Despite Foley's popularity and record of achievement in securing new money, the attack seems unavoidable--sprung from a sea-change in how cultural development is undertaken by government in Australia and elsewhere. For it is arts ministers who are left with the question of what to do as culture becomes the province of not just arts departments and ministries, but the whole-of-government? This is hardly a problem of Foley's making or his alone to solve. Indeed arts ministers - when gathered at their one of their Cultural Minister's Councils - might well drink a celebratory toast that many areas of government now see investment in culture as a legitimate way to bring about social
and economic development. New cultural industries like pop music, computer games and the world-wide web mean jobs and futures. The complaints that Anna Bligh has Generate, an enormous youth web development project, or that the Department of State Development is spending $500,000 to develop sunrise cultural industries ring false. Making culture a concern of the whole-of-government and part of the thinking of the Minister for Youth and the Minister for State Development is a victory that the arts lobby has chased since the mid-1970s. It should be welcomed. Gratitude is the only way to greet, for example, the $260 million State and Federal Government investment in the cultural heritage Trail Network. This network seeks to preserve the heritage identities of communities in rural Queensland and build industries around those identities. It will help to undergird social and economic futures of these communities. The fact that this initiative is coming out of the Premier's Department reflects culture's centrality to the State Government agenda on jobs. The only downside for arts organisations is the need to master the new entry points to government and the subtly different languages of each agency. While we might want to lump them together, these diverse rhetorics keep bureaucrats apart. If you have ever seen treasury officials and arts bureaucrats together in a room - well then you are the only one to have done so. The implication for arts ministers and the rest of
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government is the need for the coordination of policy and programs so that each hand knows what the other is up to. The implication for arts bureaucracies at both the State and Federal Government level is a change to the skills base to talk the language of micro-economic reform and industry development. Before the arts congratulate themselves too heartily that culture is breaking out all over, we might say this victory has come about almost unwittingly - the product of forces beyond the control of even the most powerful arts lobbyist. The collapse of the divide between the high arts and the popular arts is complete. Now high-brow, low-brow and nobrow compete with the gloves off for audience, viewers, readers, lookers and doers. After the success of Survivor and Ibiza Uncovered on network television we might well think nobrow is winning, and maybe that is a good thing. The new culture places Telemann, Tele Tubbies and turntablism all on a par. Apparently, they all say something about who we are, even if they don't agree. It is possible to see that this collapse of the division between high and low as every bit as big a gain for democracy as the collapse of the Berlin Wall. While all recent arts minister's stand, as Foley has acknowledged, in the shadow of the first Goss Government's reform agenda, Foley's contributions have been significant. Most important has been the Public Art Policy that guarantees 2% of the budget of all Public Works funds are to be expended on cultural works. This policy is a genuine world-leader - it
breaks down barriers between departments and recognizes the cultural importance of our public buildings - and it is probably for this that Foley's ministership will be remembered. In contrast, Foley's Canberra-bashing can sometimes seem like a broken record from the 1970s and too easy by half. Helen Nugent's report on the major Performing Arts deserves a kick but there are no benefits for Queensland in bashing the Australia Council too hard. There is no doubt that Foley's predecessor Joan Sheldon was a good bricks and mortar arts minister. Her youth arts policy was a first, but her gutting of Arts Queensland seemed personally and politically motivated. Foley, while hesitating too long, has eventually added flesh to Sheldon's plans for the Empire Furniture building, and re-jigged Sheldon's extensions to the Queensland Cultural Centre to include regional and indigenous initiatives. He also found $1million for youth arts initiatives, $1 million for indigenous Library Services, more money for the regions and restructured Arts Queensland's labyrinthine Grant Programs. More delicate though has been the negotiation of the merger of the Queensland Philharmonic and Symphony Orchestras; the most tricky arts funding issue since the collapse of the TN Theatre Company in 1990. The challenge now for the arts, for Foley and for this government is how to negotiate this brave new world where funding comes not just from the arts minister but from all over. Just what do you say when the Minister for Roads rings up
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asking for graffiti artists to paint murals for the many kilometres of freeway hoardings? "Yes", I suppose. Stuart Glover is a PhD student with the Australian Key Centre for Cultural and Media Policy. He has been a consultant to this government and an employee of previous ones in arts policy matters. This is the author's version, the published version: Stuart Glover, "Foleys Defence" (article on Arts Minister Matt Foley) in Courier-Mail, October 2000. 3

S Glover

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